Saturday, 6 September 2008

Humour as a defense mechanism

Dealing with the Jobcentre recently has been an unanticipated comedy of errors.

As background, before going to Italy for Mark's wedding, I had to temporarily sign off Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) since not being in the UK meant I had to stop JSA since I was not available for, or able to look for job. The stock letter I received read something like, "We are informing you that we will have to cancel your JSA benefit because you have ended your claim." Duh.

On returning home on Sunday after the wedding, I discovered the expected "Your housing and council tax benefits have stopped because the JSA people have told us that you have gone abroad" letters, however there was one letter that was rather puzzling, asking me to send in the occupier details for my flat. Since it was the Sunday before a Bank Holiday, there wasn't much I could do about that or restarting my JSA claim until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, after an job interview at the MET office, I phoned the JobCentre to begin the process of restarting my JSA claim, gave them all the details they asked for and made an appointment to do the paperwork next Monday. Then I phoned the city council to find out why they needed my occupier details again, apparently they were under the impression that I'd left the country for good, (apparently the Jobcentre hadn't been very clear) and they reopened my file.

The next Monday I turned up at the Jobcentre at 8:50am, ready to do the paperwork to reclaim JSA, housing and council tax benefits, explained that I had come for a 'rapid reclaim for JSA' as instructed. I ended up waiting for 3/4 hour to be seen (appointment was supposed to be @ 9am), virtually the first thing I was asked was, "Do you have the completed forms ready?". Somewhat surprised I responded, "No, why would I?", "They were supposed to give you the forms as you came in, didn't you say about the rapid reclaim?". "I did say, that I was here for a rapid reclaim, no one gave me any forms". I had been bored silly (hadn't brought a book since appointment was first thing), when I could have been filling out the forms. I then had to rush through completing the forms because of that mistake.

Eventually a letter arrived from the Jobcentre saying my JSA claim had been approved, and stated that I had good cause for delaying my claim application (Bank Holiday). I'd be disappointed with the Jobcentre, but my expectations of their competence and efficiency have been rather low for some time now, and I found the whole affair amusing, rather than just irritating. I have another appointment at the JobCentre next Monday, I have to try and make a case for them simplifying the reclaim process, even if it means filling out the forms before I leave.

I'm not looking forward to doing this again for the trip to America for Nicholas's wedding, but my family is worth the hassle.